PDM announces country-wide protests from Oct 20

Leadership says rallies against massive inflation will continue for 15 days


Rizwan Shehzad   October 19, 2021
PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:

A year after its formation and losing two of its allies along the way, the opposition alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) on Monday announced that it would start a country-wide protest against the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from October 20 and would go for a long march in the coming months.

While announcing that it would hold protests and rallies against “massive inflation”, among other things, for 15 days starting from October 20 followed by a long march against the government, the PDM leadership rejected the proposed electoral reforms and amendments made in the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999, in its Monday meeting.

In addition, the PDM rejected the holding of local bodies elections under the incumbent government, demanding that free and transparent elections of the provincial and national assemblies be held immediately. “Our demand is of holding general elections. Until transparent elections are held in the country and legitimate governments come into being, there is no justification of local bodies elections,” PDM President Maulana Fazlur Rehman said.

The PDM chief announced the decisions after a meeting of PDM leaders in the capital, which included Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Aftab Sherpao, Owais Noorani, and Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif, and PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz participated via video link.

The PDM head clarified that the opposition parties were not striving to bring any change inside parliament, saying if they had to adopt this option, they would have accepted the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) stance before it parted ways with the alliance. “We want fresh elections,” he said.

Read PDM announces new phase of anti-govt protests across country

Since its formation on September 20, 2020, this is the second time the PDM is gearing up for country-wide protests and rallies. Last September, the opposition parties had upped their ante against the ruling PTI, demanded immediate resignation of Premier Imran Khan, and announced country-wide protests. The PPP-hosted All Parties Conference (APC) in the capital had ratcheted up its narrative against the alleged rigging in the 2018 general elections but later the PPP and the Awami National Party (ANP) parted ways with the PDM.

In the meeting, the PDM leadership after deliberating upon issues related to inflation, electoral reforms including holding elections via electronic voting machines (EVMs), NAB amendments, the tentative schedule of rallies in November and December, and ‘Islamabad March’ reached the conclusion that it would start protests after two days to build pressure on the government.

“NAB’s amended ordinance was completely rejected in today’s meeting,” Maulana said after the meeting, adding that NAB is one of the remnants of the dictatorship and it has always been used against the opposition parties as a political tool.

“There is no expectation of accountability from this [NAB] institution,” he said.

“The EVM is actually another name of the RTS,” Maulana said while referring to the alleged failure of the Results Transmission System on the eve of the July 25 general elections in 2018.

Maulana said that the EVM was basically a way to rig the next general elections through the use of machines in a technical way.

“The government which [allegedly] came into existence as a result of rigging has no right to give a formula or law for holding free, fair, and transparent elections,” Maulana said. Moreover, the PDM chief demanded the opening of borders with Afghanistan and Iran for trade as people and trade were being affected by the decision.

To a question about the civil-military ties, Fazl said that PDM is not interfering in any government affairs, adding that it wants a democratic and constitutional system in the country. “We are focusing on our objective and don’t want to spend our energy on other issues,” he said.

Read more PDM doing politics of long marches, sit-ins: Farrukh

Maulana asked a journalist if he was representing the PPP – which along with the ANP had parted ways with the PDM six months after its formation – when he asked if the PDM has announced a protest against inflation after the PPP announced it and if the opposition alliance had backtracked from its demand of seeking resignation from the prime minister. “We have not deviated an inch from our stance,” Maulana incorporated.

He said that the prime minister has turned out to be “the biggest thief” in line with his statement before coming to power that a prime minister is a thief if bills of electricity and gas increase and petroleum prices go up. The government has drawn the ire of its political rivals and people after it jacked up the price of petrol by Rs10.49 per litre and that of high-speed diesel (HSD) by Rs12.44 per litre.

To a question, Maulana said that the schedule for the protests was being prepared, saying protests, rallies, and strikes leading to a long march would start from October 20 and decisions would be taken step by step as per the evolving situation.

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